March 4 2016
Taxithi: An Australian Odyssey relates dreams of Greek community
The unspoken word in this powerful and touching celebration of the Greek community in Australia is “refugee”.
Aside from the initial waves of migration after the world and civil wars, most Greeks who came to Australia would rate nowadays as economic refugees. But is fleeing the tyranny of poverty so different from fleeing political tyranny, especially at a time when a family needed a substantial dowry to have any control over the choice of husband for a daughter?
The personal stories told by Helen Yotis Patterson, Artemis Ioannides and Maria Mercedes are all about optimism, hope and opportunity. Sometimes, however, the optimism proved misplaced. Hopes were dashed and the price paid for new opportunity was enduring sacrifice, especially for the first generation of migrants.
While the sacrifices were typically borne without a grumble, sorrow is the seam running beneath the folk songs of Dionysis Savvopoulos and Mikis Theodorakis, and even the lighter music of the late laiko singer Stelios Kazantzidis and trumpeter Giorgos Mouzakis.
The 15 songs in Taxithi are passionate and electrifying, ripe with unspeakable longing. Lyrically, they’re remarkable too. In a Kazantzidis song, with lyrics by Stefanos Vartanis, Yotis Patterson sings with thrilling power about exhaling fire with her sighs, and cracking mountains with her tears.
Her script — and Petra Kalive’s seamless production — effortlessly conveys the meaning of the words to Greek and English speakers alike. The three voices, individually and collectively, are enchanting. Mercedes’s fine dramatic soprano and Ioannides’s light and smoky voice flesh out the ensemble beautifully.